Confessions of a Surf Blog Commenter – by mike mantalos
It has been less than three years since I first discovered the medium of the surf blog. As another chapter ends, I find myself questioning how I have become so caught up in the anonymous momentum. Answers become bigger questions, and bigger questions find simpler answers.
For most of my adult life I surfed a consistent series of sand banks that attracted a similar demographic as I. More photogenic or popular surf spots bookended this stretch of dirty sand, but I enjoyed the relative anonymity that this deserted stretch of peaks offered. Utilitarian surf, but fit my busy lifestyle well and afforded me a daily surf without my one real enemy, crowds.
As the years went by, my “secret” became more visited. At first, a small cadre of friends discouraged new faces. Eventually, new faces became friends. We had a good run of selfishness and quite frankly, the new crew was pretty entertaining after the pall of our original exclusion lifted.
We gathered each morning randomly. Different characters, varied lifestyles. As comfort replaced “stink eye’ or worse, personalities were allowed to run free. Topics of discussion were as varied as our opinions and the comedy that ensued was infectious. Thin skins and fragile egos found no solace on our “hill”. Often, the discourse supplanted the desire to surf… guys were showing up for the social without their boards.
I never realized how dependent I had become on the comedy on that hill overlooking “our” peak.
Suffice to say, our narrative was becoming exponentially exaggerated. The foibles of life or worse, public displays of poor surfing were the catalysts to unregulated clowning and I thrived in that environment.
One day before I moved away, I shared a joint with a few of the boys on the hill following fun surf. Everyone sensed that my departure was an end to our brotherhood and I was flattered at the suggestion. Suggestions were volleyed about how we could write a script to capture a comedy that had taken us hostage willingly. None of us can write, so that suggestion was as futile, but the desire was genuine.
My new home was amazing. I was living a surf trip without packing or boarding a flight. Surfing alone in quality waves became a three- year period of my life that stands alone. I had money in the bank, nothing but time and ridiculous surf.
I so easily acquiesced back into my reclusive era and spent weeks on end communicating only to my socially starved wife.
The Army Corp of Engineers and a vacant Huey destroyed all that. The Corp dredged a local harbor and literally killed the best series of sand in America. I haven’t surfed the “Mariana’s” trench in 5 years and that horror was compounded by three successive years of surf drought.
I resumed a healthy travel itinerary, but eventually money became a consideration and the thought of rebuilding my career was no longer optional.
One day, an urgent online surf check led me to a link to Post Surf.
Wow. It was like I had found a new hill and this time, a hill that included pro surfing as a topic.
My old crew would argue over sports, art, life, women, politics, money… just about everything except pro surfing. No one else gave a rat’s ass about any tour. During one contest weekend for the OP Pro, I remember surveying the lineup informally for opinions about the contest just a short bike ride away. No one cared, the waves were way too good to bother with anything “pro”.
Now I am no groupie, but I am a consummate student of performance and watching those guys surf is my classroom. Post Surf became my study group.
Immediately I fell into the rhythm of sarcastic expression, an expression that had been in hibernation since my move. The author of Post Surf is a brilliant comedian who wrote with a unique freedom that had no umbilical cord to the surf industry. His message resonated and I no longer needed television or the surf periodicals that I had begun to despise for entertainment.
Truth be told, the surf magazines had always been a medium I had loathed. No one could write what needed to be said and I decided to test that premise. I was trashed and thoroughly humiliated each time I found access to one of the magazine editors. My perspective was dirt and sold nothing, thanks for coming, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.
In Post Surf, I found the conduit to express my admittedly non- commercial ideology framed in my unique brand of obtuse humor. Online friends and enemies blurred in a flurry of fun. Our host offered up the fresh kill and we piled on for a feed.
Eventually, his genius became his burden. Another genius replaced the first, the fun continued unabated. I suspect the popularity of both writers led to possible mainstream ambitions. Talent amongst the sea of homogenous writing surely had to find a broader audience and I hope they both find a medium ready for their change.
As Nug abandoned his asylum, Blasphemy Rottmouth ascended the throne. Unrivaled as a commenter, “Brew” authored his blog in much the same direction as his predecessors. But now, the head psychiatrist could follow his every muse that wasn’t corralled by any relation to surfing. The discourse thrived.
The mischief was infectious and organic. Through an online collection of anonymous comics, I had replaced a comedy that I had forgotten from the hill. It was odd to develop such familiarity amongst the participants, a fact that chafed the Post Surf author into seclusion (I suspect). Brew was the continuity to the madness and one could barely find a more hilarious respite. Once again, thin skins and fragile egos need not attend and it’s like our social order incubated just like any surf lineup would in the days before density’s ugly reality.
Although the surf industry at large bristles and condescends our movement as small, we have made our impact. Nick Carroll celebrated us as New Sarcastics…thank you Nick. Tim Baker wrote me an ugly email! I hope that we found common ground because we are essentially more similar than not. Brody Croyle defended his disaster of an ASP schedule to me in a personal email. Dave Mailman invited me to his wedding! Jamie O’Brien “tweeted” what an asshole I am!
Through Lewis’ New Sarcasm, I had a voice amongst a global surf community that had insulated itself like teflon. Clif Evers even published a story of mine, charitable soul that he is. Imagine that? After all these years, a magazine that appreciated an original thought without a sales hook.
Even more amazing, Peter Bowes stopped moderating me. Oh St Peter of Bowes, your church of literature and Clif’s flock of Pelicans will still feed my intellect with surf story. I’ll maintain decorum when commenting, all due respect indeed.
But the New Sarco movement was and is, anything but new. It’s been practiced on every beach, every era and every language known to the surf world. It just finally found a voice over an anonymous, invisible airway straight into my office and on my command. And I could never predict what would happen next. Beautiful.
Nick Carroll will claim victory. Our movement couldn’t maintain its momentum forever. But know this Nick, the larger surfing demographic remains voiceless and resistant to your sales campaigns. Silence should not be confused with failure. And a Pelican brief and St Peter provides your ilk with a template for genuine writing.
I confess, I have been a surf blogger. I sure will miss it, but now I may actually get something done, albeit in a world much less fun.
thanks Mike, and tell brew to get off his fat arse and think of something new – he’s only a young bloke
The goods, Mike. Pure goods.
It’s a start, when you open up your heart.
Nice work Mike.
“But the New Sarco movement was and is, anything but new. It’s been practiced on every beach, every era and every language known to the surf world. It just finally found a voice over an anonymous, invisible airway straight into my office and on my command. And I could never predict what would happen next. Beautiful.”
What an ode!
Heee heee at Steve. I am not even being sarcastic. Or am I? Who the hell knows anymore.
Awesome pic PB. It’s almost perfect.
I never understood why I cancelled my surf publications over 30 years ago till now. Nice piece gmmmmmbbbbby.
Yeah Mike! Nice piece of work. Speaking of the wedding, it was a great day! Your presence was sorely missed! I would have loved it if you, BREW, Nug and the Bagel had shown up for all the fun. Some other time on a hill somewhere. More than happy to be your host in Hossegor if you ever make it over this way! All the best, DM
PS: Enoch isn’t really pulling the cord on BR’s blog is he?!? What’ll he do for fun in the basement now…? On second thought, don’t answer that question!!!
Wow. I imagine Mike rolled over and lit a cigarette after such a mammoth masturbatory effort.
I have sat on the sidelines of this bullshit excuse-making for some time now, appalled by the ways you have disrespected, taunted and treated people including some that I write with, care about and respect. I’m certain I’m going to regret this but I can’t possibly read this self-congratulatory word vomit and not respond.
Because the other perspective on all of this is that your comments and carry-on are, despite your claims, about nothing more than ego: yours, his, theirs and the stroking of each other’s. As you have gloried in what you humbly consider to be your accomplished grasp of not only words and language but also of world affairs, you peck and squabble like seagulls over a chip, working both with and against each other like some kind of mini-mob. To facilitate this, Nick Carroll was fashioned into a sacrificial martyr to measure what to stand against, but in doing the depths of your own argument were revealed, and they are shallow. The moment there was a response at your attempted move into another, newer space, you all fell crying into each other’s arms, reassuring yourselves via witty repartee that you were being persecuted and treated unfairly, rallying defensively and wailing that your ‘freedom of speech’ was being curtailed. You got moderated when you started to act inappropriately – boo-fucking-hoo.
What your egos never allowed you to consider was the impact of your words, the way they might resonate beyond the digital realm and the idea that everything has a place, including your participation as commenters. In this piece of writing you accuse adverse responses to your behaviour as being ‘thin-skinned’. But know this: the larger surfing demographic is not represented by any of you either. Truth be told, it’s all too fractured and diverse to be represented by any of us. Reilly and his cohort have been slowly discovering this, along with the idea that despite what they might have originally thought, The Internet is not a vacuum for ethics, boundaries and real-world consequences.
In the end you were big enough to change your game to fit appropriately into different spaces (also known as being a grown up), which was heartening. And from what I have seen I must admit that in a perverse way all of your behaviour is quite sweet, and filled with an odd kind of love and affection for each other, which is something to be supported, albeit not in this particular form. It is deeply unfortunate that this love seems only to manifest against something else – something, anything that isn’t you.
note to rebecca : please get angry and come by here more often
note to brew: nfw matey, je suis chouette
Basically correct except the cigarettes.
What I want to know is, how many Pony Express riders had to die at the hands of the savages before this comment was released? There is such a thing as Snail Mail. Even UPS.
No, we GOT IT Rebecca. Months ago. I’m glad you finally caught up.
Also, Mike wants to know what you’re wearing right now.
And by “Mike,” I mean me. And by “me,” I mean my uncontrollable ego.
Which is very… very… large.
Sorry Pete… just trying to keep it real…
And what was the impact of their words?
I don’t think Nick Carroll was cast as a “sacrificial matryr”…..I think there was just a clash of cultures and values….nothing new there. Ideas long suppressed by commercial imperatives just came out and argued in a public sphere.
Nick Carroll as a “sacrificial martyr”??
I seem to remember Nick being the one who wrote the article on New Sarcastics in the first place and Mike “RESPONDING” to that article.
I’m glad you didn’t wait any longer to post your rebuttal otherwise poor Peter Bowes may not have been around to host it.
Kudos Ms Oliver, Kudos.
Hey Blas, is this really you?
I think that’s Mike after Nick Carroll challenged him to a fight in the Newport parking lot New Year’s day. Sadly, nobody showed.
Let me say first that I am not a surfer, but do know our beloved commenter and author of this history of intertidal discourse. I just wanted to say it was a good read and the comments that followed have trod an obviously sure and worn path.
This same kind of waveflux happens in all blogs no matter what their subject matter: poetry, knitting, animal husbandry/wifery, engine rebuilding, and plumbing to mention a few. Even our local and national news sources find the gride and grind of commentators and the subsequent responses to be of a predictable nature.
There will always be the straightforward on-topic comments side-by-side with the snarky sarco sophomoronics of those of us who never got our class clown pink slips. It’s the way of the cyberworld.
It is the force that polishes the pearl and makes seaglass so minty fresh.
It was nice to get a glimpse of that here in surfworld where, no matter how much octopoo gets flung, at the end of the set all that really matters is doing and being in one’s chosen environment where such music is so readily available to nourish one’s soul.
So go out and surf the world looking for that Great White Wave, me hardies, and know, sweet Rebecca, that it was not a cigarette before he rolled over (he would never light up in bed), but a honkin’ splifferation in well-earned celebration. Nice work, all.
Fucken hell, yeah, take that you BASTARDS … unwittingly or no, you’ve turned me into surfing’s St Sebastian.
I hope Rebecca’s words sear themselves into your guilty souls. Bloody Pharisees.
steady nude nut, I’ve only got eight readers and they have all promised to send me money
A promise kept is karma earned. Check’s in the post Pete.
Cheers and yew.
hey Pete, if you’re cashing in on this stuff, send the commission check pronto. It appears that this story has longevity that defies relevant interest. A post that won’t die, if you will.
Hope Yasi brought you good surf my man.
it’s in the mail mike, no worries
Thankfully, I have no soul to sear.
all that may be left is to have your sear sold. some strange confessional all tinker’s cuss and make-up